In many wonderful ways planting Valley Life Church has been church planting fairy tale. Healthy financial support allowed us time to acclimate to the area without the pressure of starting right away, the leaders quickly fell into place and remain a part of the church today, the city received us well and my family quickly embraced Phoenix as home.
We can even tell stories of God giving my wife, Brooke, dreams to prepare her for the move from Oklahoma to a city she’d never even visited. Brooke became convinced that God had shown her that we would move in winter and that it would snow while we were moving. When it became clear that we were moving to Phoenix on January 1st, I told her that she must be half right. We’d be moving during the winter, but very unlikely that it snows in Phoenix. We moved our furniture into the rent house in the only Phoenix snow flurries we have seen in these 6 years.
Sometimes I look back on the last six years and find it difficult to remember anxiety or fear at all. This week I found a six-year-old prayer that I had written in the middle of the night that brought it all back. I was hounded by doubt and nursing persistent fears when I should have been leading my family in faith. “Why isn’t this working. I want to go home. I wait on you Lord.” Reading my own terrified, forgotten words, now on the other side of faith becoming sight, I asked myself, “having begun by the Spirit, are you now going to continue in the flesh?” No. We just can’t. In order to continue in the Spirit instead of in the flesh…
We will not begin to think highly of ourselves. Jim Collins said that the first step is to get the right people on the bus. I understand that, and I appreciate the wisdom in the statement. But at the same time I believe that when Valley Life Church started I was delighted that no one was checking for bus tickets. Jesus’ willingness to equip and prepare the people whom He calls still gets me. Part of Valley Life’s story and culture is that God’s call to leadership in our church is often preceded by humility forged in humiliation, public brokenness and desperation.
We will not give myself credit for the nobility of the mission. Our mission is to make disciples and plant churches. It’s a noble mission and I am proud of it. We even take the somewhat odd step of being public about it despite the fact that it doesn’t necessarily make sense to the people that we want to reach in our community. It’s written on almost everything we print, post or affix to our building. However the mission is not so noble that we don’t have to execute it. If we boldly proclaim that our mission is to make disciples and plant churches we are not better off than a church without a unifying theme but actually makes disciples who plant churches. Our mission will be coupled with a vision, an imagined future of disciple-making and church planting, that is falsifiable. A thing that can’t be false doesn’t matter if it’s true. We cannot celebrate a win if there was no real possibility of loss. We will be able to measure whether or not we accomplished the amount of disciple-making and church planting that we had anticipated.
We will not dream small dreams. There are two different reasons to dream small dreams and they are both rooted in pride. One is to make the dreams the sum of the gifts of the people involved. The other is to try to ensure that the leaders are not embarrassed at falling short of the goal. We have no reason to do either. Because we believe our future is not the sum of our abilities and efforts, because we must factor in what God can do and what He has chosen our church to do, our vision of disciples made and churches planted can be large. We are not limited by our inadequacies, we are emboldened by them. God’s power is on display when the result far outstrips our capabilities.
Published January 2, 2017